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Only in Hawaii: Growing Coffee and Cacao

Hawaiʻi holds a lot of distinctions. It is the only U.S. state surrounded entirely by water, with its own language (ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi), and the only one that is getting bigger (Hello active volcanoes!). It is also the only state that grows cacao and one of only two states that grow coffee plants commercially. 

It is fate. Hawaiʻi just happens to be located about twenty degrees north of the equator, which is the outer limits of cacao growing territory. This makes the tropical islands the coldest place in the world where cacao can grow. And cacao loves fertile, well-drained soil, of which Hawaiʻi has plenty. Coffee beans are happy to grow in paradise too. Kona coffee, which can only originate from the Kona districts of the “Big Island”, is world-renowned. Sunny mornings + rainy afternoons + temperate nights + mineral-rich volcanic soil + aloha = a seriously sought-after cuppa joe. For both chocolate and coffee connoisseurs, Hawaiʻi is regarded as a place where the soil yields extraordinary beans, all while making sustainability and fair labor practices imperative.

Outpost Coffee

Outpost Coffee Kauaʻi knows it's all about relationships. Ben Fitt purchased an abandoned coffee orchard of 400 plants in Kilauea in 2018 and promptly rejected the traditional, colonial system where coffee producers remain impoverished. He sought to bring forth world-class coffee from a value chain where everything and everyone is thriving. Because a sustainable relationship between bean and human being affects not only the soil but also the livelihoods of those who till it, the quality of the product, and applied to other coffee producers around the world, the health of the planet. Each batch is thoughtfully roasted, highlighting the palate of the land of which it was cultivated, harvested, fermented, roasted, brewed, and served or distributed: Hawaiʻi. There is passion in this product and a great deal of integrity. Outpost Coffee also has the ability to foster relationships by creating a communal experience, a gathering of people and hot mugs, and not just in the islands, but anywhere its taken in the world. 

Lydgate Farms

Nestled in the crux of Mount Waialeale and Nounou Mountain thrives Lydgate Farms. Amongst the more common fruit and flower trees grows something exceptional: high-quality cacao. Will Lydgate, member of a fifth-generation Kauaʻi family, manages the farm and is playing a role in the rearing of a new industry for the islands: branch-to-bar chocolate. For 150 years, Hawaiʻi was a mass producer of sugarcane and pineapple which took a toll on the health of the soil and those who cultivated it under harsh conditions. Lydgate is working to remedy this by utilizing natural farming techniques, using only organic fertilizer, and producing specialty products in sustainable ways. This is small-scale farming, farming with care. Instead of taking from the land, Lydgate Farms works with the land, known in the islands as malama ʻaina. It is a system designed to make excellent chocolate for people now, while nurturing the land for the people of the future.

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